ProvenanceWilliam Crowninshield Rogers, Boston until 1888
William B. Rogers, Sherborn, Massachusetts until 1938, by descent from above
Susan E. Rogers (Mrs. David H. Maynard), Dedham, Massachusetts, by descent from above
Samuel Haydock, Dedham, Massachusetts, John P. Maynard, Dover, Massachusetts and Mrs. Hope M. Reichl, Burlington, Vermont, by joint descent in the family
The Putnam Foundation, Timkin Art Gallery San Diego, 1964
William Crowninshield Rogers, Boston until 1888
By descent to his son, William B. Rogers, Sherb...More...orn, Massachusetts until 1938
By descent to his daughter, Susan E. Rogers (Mrs. David H. Maynard), Dedham, Massachusetts
By joint descent to Samuel Haydock, Dedham, Massachusetts, John P, Maynard, Dover, Massachusetts, and Hope M. Reichl, Burlington, Vermont
The Putman Foundation, Timken Art Gallery, San Diego, 1964
Berry-Hill Galleries, New York
Private Collection, California, 1995
LiteratureNational Academy of Design 1876 Official Catalogue, Department of Art, p.26, no. 522C
Whitney Museum of Art, catalogue no. 18, p. 70 (reproduced)
National Gallery of Art, 1986 catalogue buy Helen Cooper, pp. 34-36, 245, p. 35, fig. 21
The Menil Collection, 1989 catalogue no. 18, pp. 72-73 (reproduced)
The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1990 catalogue, p. 79 (reproduced)
"Watercolor Exhibition," The New York Times, February 13, 1876, p.10
"Fine Arts Ninth Exhibition of the Water Color Society," The Nation, Vol. 22, February 17, 1876, p. 120
William Downes, "The Life and Works of Winslow Homer," 1911, p.81
Karen M. Adams, "Black Images in Nineteenth-Century American Paintings and Literature: An Iconological Study of Mount, Melville, Home,r and Mark Twain" (Ph. D. dissertation, Emory University, 1977), p. 128, fig. 49
Timken Art Gallery, "American Paintings in the Collection of the Putnam Foundation," San Diego, 1977, p. 8 (reproduced)
Kathleen Adair Foster, "Makers of the American Watercolor Movement: 1860-1890," ph.D dissertation, Yale University, 1982, vol. 1, p.77
Michael Quick, "Homer in Virginia," Los Angeles County Museum of Art Bulletin 1978, Vol. XXIV, pp. 74-75, fig. 24
Gordon Hendricks, The Life and Work of Winslow Homer, New York, 1979, pp.104, 279
Timken Art Gallery, "European and American Works of Art in the Putnam Foundation Collection," San Diego, 1983, pp. 100-101, no. 37 (reproduced)
Mary Ann Calo, "Winslow Homer's Visits to Virginia During the Reconstruction," The American Art Journal, Vol. XII, no. 1, Winter 1980, pp. 9-10, 13, fog. 12
Guy C. McElroy, "Facing History: The Black Image in American Art," San Francisco: Bedford Arts Publishers, with the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1990, pp. 78-79 (reproduced)
This piece is from the reconstruction era and depicts a single figure. The boy depicted in "The Busy Bee" is a model that appears repeatedly in Homer's work from this period, including some of the most widely celebrated reconstruction era paintings like "Dressing for the Carnival" (1877) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Nearly all of Homer’s works from the reconstruction era south are in museum collections. Another painting of the same model, "Taking Sunflower to Teacher" (1875), is in the Georgia Museum of Art.
This work is available from a private collection where it has stayed for the last 25 years. It has been exhibited widely beginning in 1876 at the National Academy of Design in New York and going on to be exhibited throughout the 20th century at major American museums such as The Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and The Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas.
One of the most influential and important artist, Winslow Homer was born in Boston in 1836. He is considered one of the greatest of American realists in the 19th century and although he never formerly learned or aligned with any of the major movements like the Barbizon School, his influence and recognition is widespread, and his process marked a turn away from the divinely infused works of earlier landscape artists.
While he started as an illustrator and depended on it heavily for his income, by 1875, he was able to make a living from his paintings.
Homer created The Busy Bee in 1875, a time in which he focused mainly on idyllic landscapes, images of children, and young adults in oils and watercolor. During this period, he became a member of The Tile Club, a group of artists that discussed ideas and organized painting excursions. Other members included William Merritt Chase.
Famous for his watercolors, his facility with the medium is evident in the work shown. There is precision in the colors and lines without hemming in the nature of watercolor to soak into the support. It is important to remember that Homer never received any formal training.
The Busy Bee epitomizes Homer’s vision of the American landscape, held fast visually by young women or children. Much like Rembrandt and other Old Master painters, Homer imbues his subject with emotional content and personality. The Busy Bee is among a series of works depicting the same model. Another painting of the young boy, Taking a Sunflower to the Teacher, is in the Georgia Museum of Art.
The 1870s would be a crucial time for Homer as he stepped away from illustration into new experiments in form and medium. Between 1873-1905, Homer created nearly 700 watercolors. Nearly all of his works from the Reconstruction era South are in museum collections, testament to their importance. As Home himself noted, “You will see, in the future I will live by my watercolors.”